The Aquarius offshore laboratory received it's death blow this week when funding levels were set at about 1.2 million dollars, which is just about enough to finish the final mission for NASA. Aquarius was originally conceived and funded by NOAA's National Undersea Research Program (NURP) in the mid 1980s. The underwater laboratory was built by Victoria Machine Works in 1986-87. Initial deployment was in the U.S. Virgin Islands where 13 missions were conducted before Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989, and devastated St. Croix. Aquarius was retrieved from the seafloor in 1990 and was moved to North Carolina where it was refurbished under the direction of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). In 1993, the laboratory was redeployed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and supported 22 missions during the next three years. In 1996, Aquarius was recovered, and refurbished again. Many improvements were made to the system including construction of a semi-autonomous life support buoy that replaced a 17 by 34-meter life support barge. Aquarius was redeployed in 1997 and operations resumed in 1998. The support buoy is in a shipyard in Miami at this time undergoing a complex overhaul and drydocking, and was expected to be re-deployed in the next month with all new solar panels and systems. For the past few years, Aquarius has been primarily funded by NASA to support weightless living by astronauts with a few NOAA missions thrown in. NASA paid for a mission last year which was cancelled for weather. Now, the buoy must be retrieved from the boat yard and set in place, and the final mission must be run. The old support vessel which was designed to retrieve the Aquarius is long gone, so it isn't clear how NOAA will get the Aquarius brought up from the bottom. It's sad to be losing a piece of working history like this. Pink slips have been and will be issued to the crew.